...some who claim Section 4 supports implied presidential powers citedicta in the Supreme Court’s plurality opinion in Perry v. U.S. (1935). This case involved a Treasury bond written as “payable in United States gold coin,” which the Treasury refused to pay in gold after Congress barred gold payments in 1933. In reality, the plurality opinion’s discussion of Section 4 cuts against arguments for expanded presidential power. It states:
We regard [Section 4] as confirmatory of a fundamental principle, which applies as well to the government bonds in question, and to others duly authorized by the Congress, as to those issued before the Amendment was adopted. Nor can we perceive any reason for not considering the expression “the validity of the public debt” as embracing whatever concerns the integrity of the public obligations. [Emphasis added.]
Perry confirms that Section 4 deals with debt “duly authorized by Congress.”
Even if Congress refused to pay debts already authorized — which no one is suggesting — the president could not provide a remedy. As the Perry plurality also stated, Congress has no duty to provide a remedy: “While the Congress is under no duty to provide remedies through the courts, the contractual obligation still exists and, despite infirmities of procedure, remains binding upon the conscience of the sovereign [emphasis added].”
Obligations “binding on the conscience” are also recognized by Article VI of the Constitution. It obligates the payment of “All Debts” incurred under the Confederation. Nevertheless, both that provision and Section 4 rely on Congress’s power “to borrow money on credit of the United States” (Article I, Section 8).
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